By Adam Wills
Being a huge fan of Down, and growing up with Pantera, I was eager to give The Sign of the Southern Cross’s debut on Season of the Mist, … Of Mountains and Moonshine a chance. With cover art emblazoned with the Confederate flag, and mentioning influences including Pantera, Down, Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity, Pantera, Pantera, and Pantera, I remove the CD (also, covered in the Confederate flag), snicker, and pop it in.
Opening the album is a short acoustic instrumental, the title track “Of Mountains and Moonshine”, full of guitars soaked with the good ol’ southern sound, layered with a soulful fiddle that really sets a great mood for the album. At least that’s what I thought it was doing.
Opening with the first actual song, “Huck Finn”, I’m immediately introduced to some terribly over compressed guitars, playing blatently obviously riffs burrowed from Pantera. I mean, Pantera was a great band, and they heavily influenced where I am today in music. But ..Southern Cross seems not to be influenced by them, but instead sound like they’re trying to revive the band with a new lineup.
Vocalist Seth Uldricks could win any Phil Anselmo sound-a-like contest, and though Anselmo remains one of my all time favourite vocalists, I just come off with a bitter taste in my mouth. He has a gifted range, and could be a great vocalist, I have no doubt – but stop with the complete Anselmo impression and find your own voice. Please.
Tracks pass by, with more Pantera-like riffs, although without the same groove and emotion that the mighty Dimebag Darrell (RIP) had. Riffs and composition seem stiff and forced, only to be broken up by the acoustic “Weeping Willow”, which for the first time, has the band sounding like they’ve put the Pantera tribute on pause. Unfortunately, this is followed up by “Hog Callin’” which honestly opens up with Uldricks crying out the classic “Su-weeeeeeeeeeeeeee”. Oh, you Southern boys, what would we do without your unintentional comedy.
“Eating the Sun” seems to one of the few standouts on the almost, switching between soothing southern jams, intertwined with a grooving melodic chorus. However, the rest of the tracks continue with the earlier trend, and fail to keep any sort of attention, making it impossible to avoid the comparisons to Pantera , and how they did the same thing so much better.
The problem with The Sign of the Southern Cross becomes obvious quite early into the album (track 2 to be precise) – they’re too busy trying to sound like their influences that they really haven’t developed their own sound. At all. I’m sure there’s people that would be really into this album, those who still think Pantera is the greatest band of all time, and that Metallica’s new album is the heaviest album to come out in years. If that’s your thing, grab some JD, your pickup truck and your cousin, and have blast. For the rest of us, we could do without.
(Season Of Mist)